In the bag: a style-savvy shopping guide to Rio de Janeiro

We round up the Brazilian city's best boutiques and beachwear – including the legendary flip-flop selection – for travellers

Amelia Mularz

BY Amelia Mularz2 September 2016

To be fair, I’m missing a number of shrimp skewers and a 12-pack of Skol beer, but otherwise, here’s a complete guide to everything I bought in Rio de Janeiro during a recent trip to Brazil. Sure, the city is best known for its partying atmosphere come carnival and laid-back beach attitude the rest of the year, but the shops are just as vibrant in South America’s most frivolous city.

On the beaches of Rio, Globo biscuits are about as ubiquitous as bikinis and grains of sand. Vendors wander the waterfront selling them for the equivalent of about a US dollar. As for their flavour, picture Cheetos puffs, but without the cheese powder – they’re not exactly a party in your mouth, but they do pair well with a can of Itaipava beer.

The tropical flower-print blouse takes the Brazilian beach state of Bahia as its inspiration. It comes from Farm Rio, a brand that began in 1997 as a modest clothing stand at a fair. Today, Farm has dozens of stores all over Brazil and collaborates with big-name brands like Adidas and Havaianas. When I visited the shop on Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema, I found gorgeous shirts, dresses and bags, plus roller skates and workout gear in tropical patterns, and even branded surfboard leashes.

I got a beautiful bar gratis with my room at boutique hotel La Suite by Dussol. But if you want to pick up extras, Granado has a store in the Centro neighbourhood, as well as a mini shop at Galeão airport. The brand was founded in 1870 by a Portuguese chemist and is a go-to source for Brazil-nut shampoo.

Not only do these shades by Zerezes have ‘Ipanema Beach’ written all over them, they’re actually handmade in Brazil with local wood. I bought them at an artisanal hotspot in artsy Santa Teresa. The shop also carries beaded jewellery, woven baskets and other irresistible handicrafts.

I grabbed this tiny bottle of Brazil’s national spirit: a nip for each of my New York friends, figuring that tropical booze is the perfect antidote to subway stress.

My Portuguese is rusty so I had no idea what capim cidreira meant when I was buying these scented sticks, but hoped it wasn’t code for burnt rubber. Fortunately, it means lemongrass and smells lovely.

Are you allowed to leave Brazil without purchasing a pair of Havaianas? Not sure, but I didn’t want to find out the hard way. I bought mine in Ipanema, but there are shops all over the city.

I’m a firm believer in the charm of old-school souvenirs – sparingly. For every batch of artisanal wares I buy, I’ll also take one shot glass or an oversized pencil. In this case, I got my trinket fix with a light-up Christ the Redeemer statue cast in plastic. I bought it for the equivalent of a dollar at a stand on Copacabana and I will treasure it for a lifetime (or at least until it stops blinking).

Vinyl collectors must stop by Toca do Vinícius, a record store in Ipanema that deals entirely in bossa nova. The day I was there, an American musician perused the vast collection with owner Carlos Alberto Afonso, who may be the friendliest shopkeeper in all of Brazil.

In addition to Globo hawkers, you’ll be greeted by a parade of sarong salesmen on the beach. I clung to my cash for the first day, but on the second day folded and bought a Brazilian flag wrap. I look forward to wearing it at my local New York beach, when I’ll surely shake my fist at the sun and demand, ‘where are all the Globos?!’

Now you’ve got the outfit, find a stylish hotel to match, with our boutique stays in Brazil